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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Animals should live freely

SeaWorld whale trainer Dawn Brancheau cared for whales like family.

“”She loved all of them,”” said Diane Gross, Brancheau’s sister.

Brancheau had a passion for animals, so she surely didn’t expect one to be the cause of her death.

During a whale demonstration at SeaWorld, Brancheau died after an orca grabbed her from a poolside platform and pulled her under the water. It’s unclear whether her death was a result of drowning or being thrashed around by the whale. According to The Associated Press, the whale had been acting peculiarly and unresponsive earlier that day.

The orca, nicknamed Telly, has a history of involvement with human fatalities. He was one of three whales blamed for killing a trainer in 1991. Telly was also involved in another incident of a naked man lying across his back in a whale tank in 1999, according to BBC News.

They’re called killer whales for a reason. One could declare Telly and other orcas dangerous and unsuitable for any human contact. Commentators have even suggested putting the whale down.

The SeaWorld tragedy is heartbreaking for everyone, especially Brancheau’s family and friends and the unfortunate onlookers who had to witness such a traumatic incident.

As sad as the situation may be, there’s a larger problem at hand with which everyone must come to terms.

Animals should not be on display for the entertainment value of humans. Though they don’t have the same rights as people, they deserve to live for themselves in their own natural habitats. It can be argued that the animals are better off in zoos and parks, where they are fed and financially cared for by humans. Sure, they’re kept alive, but perhaps they’d be happier living on their own terms.

That way, the animals wouldn’t have to be caged up and existing for the sole purpose of amusing people. What’s the thrill of being at a zoo or SeaWorld, anyway? For obvious reasons, visitors cannot interact with the animals, and simply watching them roam around in their cages or swim in their tanks can only be fun for so long. It’s difficult to imagine how someone could take pleasure in merely seeing the animals as an outside observer. Have these individuals ever considered that the animals may be uncomfortable in such confinements? They have a different thought process than humans, but they still feel, and, sadly, they don’t have the capacity to communicate any possible objections with words. Perhaps that could explain why they lash out.

Of course, animals are going to act up every once in a while. They’re taught to work with trainers, but, being wild, they’re going to revert back to their instincts, with or without reason.

Animals are not rational beings, yet they’re placed into structured, purportedly regulated environments. They should not be put to sleep for this kind of behavior but rather sent back to where they came from, where they have less exposure to people. They may have limited access to food and shelter if freed or left alone, but they’d be liberated and not under the ownership of anyone else. Unless an animal poses a direct risk to someone, he should not be locked up.

On Christmas Day in 2007, a tiger named Tatiana at the San Francisco Zoo escaped from her cage and killed a visitor who had been taunting her. This occurrence sparked dialogue about unsafe zoo conditions and unreliable zoo security. Tatiana should not have been able to rush out of her confines and maul somebody, yet the man should have been mature enough not to provoke a wild cat.

The SeaWorld incident may have been different in that the whale went out of his way to snatch Brancheau, but, at the end of the day, both cases share one similarity: Brancheau and the San Francisco zoo visitor died while they were physically close to zoo animals. If there were no zoos or SeaWorlds, these incidents would not have happened.

Events like these may be rare, but they remind everyone that animals are primitive. Above all else, they shouldn’t be exploited for the amusement of people. It’s frightening that zoos exist to begin with.

Go to theme parks and movies for leisurely activity, but don’t pay to see a gorilla doing circles in his pen or a whale treading water with a trainer. Not only should these images be heart wrenching, but they should also serve as a warning of what could happen if an animal gets out of his enclosed area or spontaneously decides to attack. Animals can and will kill humans because they don’t know any better.

—Laura Donovan is a creative writing senior. She can be reached at

 letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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